Self-Stabilizing Transpiration in Synthetic Leaves
Over the past decade, synthetic trees have been engineered to mimic the transpiration cycle of natural plants, but the leaves are prone to dry out beneath a critical relative humidity. Here, we create large-area synthetic leaves whose transpiration process is remarkably stable over a wide range of humidities, even without synthetic stomatal chambers atop the nanopores of the leaf. While the water menisci cannot initially withstand the Kelvin stress of the subsaturated air, they self-stabilized by locally concentrating vapor within the top layers of nanopores that have dried up. Transpiration rates were found to vary nonmonotonically with the ambient humidity because of the tradeoff of dry air increasing the retreat length of the menisci. It is our hope that these findings will encourage the development of large-area synthetic trees that exhibit excellent stability and high throughput for water-harvesting applications.